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Alarming Clock

Topic: 5F Changing sounds

A "woodpecker clock" invented by a 22-year-old student has replaced the annoying clangs and buzzes of traditional alarms with a gentle tapping wake-up.

In this activity children will investigate how this clock works and determine how they would change the sound.

Large activity image
Try the Activity Learning Objective

Click to Download Alarming Clock teacher notes
Alarming Clock teacher notes

Click to Download Alarming Clock activity
Alarming Clock activity


You will need Acrobat Reader installed to open the activity sheets.

You will also need the latest version of the flash player to be able to play swf files.

to generalise that when a sound is made something is vibrating

Children will demonstrate this by completing the task on page 1 successfully.

to state that a sound has reached them by travelling through solid e.g. brick, wood and gas (air)

Children will demonstrate this by completing the task on page 2 successfully.

to record e.g. in a table observations indicating how well sound travels through different materials

Children will demonstrate this by completing the task on page 3 successfully.

to generalise that sound can travel through solids, liquids and gases

Children will demonstrate this by completing the task on page 3 successfully.

Curriculum Link

QCA Unit 5F: Changing sounds
that vibrations from sound sources travel through different materials to the ear
that sounds can be made by air vibrating
to suggest how to alter the pitch of a sound made by air vibrating and to test the prediction
to listen carefully to sounds made, to record results in a suitable table and decide whether these support the prediction made
to describe how the pitch of notes on a recorder (or other wind instrument) can be altered by changing the length of air column vibrating

Scientific enquiry
turning ideas into a form that can be investigated and making predictions
deciding whether the evidence is sufficient to support the prediction

Literacy (speaking and literacy)
extend their ideas in light of discussion
be able to put forward a point of view

Running the Activity

Introducing the activity

Display Page 1 through a projector or as an OHT. Discuss the images with the children. The headline informs us that a new more pleasant alarm clock has been developed.

- How are sounds produced?
- Make a list of unpleasant and pleasant sounds. Why are they pleasant/unpleasant?
- How can sounds be changed?
- What does volume mean?
- What does pitch mean?

Leading the main activity

Display Page 2 through a data projector or on an OHT. This is an information page about how sound travels and how pitch and volume can be changed. Maybe some practical activity that could be undertaken in the classroom include

- Blindfold one person and have him sit in the middle of the class. Have the other people form a large circle around the blindfolded person. Point to one of the people in the circle and have him say the seated person's name. The seated person must then try point in the direction of the voice and identify the name of the person who said his name. Try this experiment with the seated person using both ears and then again with one ear closed. How accurate can the centre person identify the caller and where the call came from?

Display Page 3 through a or as an OHT. This is the page in which the children are involved in a practical investigation. You will need a number of glass milk bottles or jam jars. Fill them with different volumes of water and arrange them in a line. Ask the children to first tap the bottles in order with a beater and to describe what happens. Then to blow gently over the top of each bottle.
- What is vibrating to make the sound in each case?
- What do they notice? Can you explain why this happens?

Web Links

The news story behind the activity

BBC Science Clips
BBC online lesson on sound. Also some good IAW activities on sound

Kids Health
Interactive site on how your ear works

Natalie Duckett
The engineer behind the invention

National Institute on Deafness
A site full of activities connected to hearing and sounds; includes an interactive quiz

Free PowerPoint presentations about sound and hearing

Kill o' the Grange National School
Lots of practical ideas connected to sound and hearing including how to make a paper banger

Reviews & Comments

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